Digital Nostalgic Appropriation

Everyone recognizes in the photo album

Christian Boltanski

The visual production of Andreas von Gehr focuses on the interaction between photography, digital media and paint to address the issue of identity from the family constitution, coming together as a concept the displacement, both media and aesthetic strategies, as of the individual in migratory process.

The basic substrate of his work is the questioning of the image: considering painting as his original discipline, Von Gehr immerses in the historical coordinates (much of that discipline as himself) to slip to another field, one that leads to photographic appropriation and digital manipulation, in order to experience the disarticulation and restructuring of the image.

This is how his works/photographs, using a digital intervention in a postproduction process, refer to phases in the history of modern painting, specifically, to pointillism, by the simulation of the pictorial treatment characteristic of this style.

In this way, the development of his production behaves as a contemporary equivalent of the primordial relationship between painting and photography, when it imitated the compositional and representational forms of the first (position of the people and environments of background for portraits, for example). After the painting, from abstraction, freed from the need of representation and has devoted itself to the pursuit of its own communicative possibilities, photography assumed the responsibility of representation of reality.

Digital manipulation releases, in turn, the photography of this forced representationist condition, allowing it to be, then, creator of sense.

Thus, photography, like support of pictorial interventions and container of digital manipulations looks potentially overloaded in its communicative capacity, becoming, in the hands of Von Gehr, even an object of installation: the linear path from painting to photography digitally operated, has, in this artist, a turning point in the implementation of » bailouts » objectual and gestural, which place the work halfway between the postphotography, that is one that has as its sole support the digital fluid of internet, and the visual arts.

Therefore, Von Gehr images operate in a sphere of interrelation of disengaged media parameters of traditional aesthetics. At the same time, and as the photography benefits from the methods and aesthetic strategies of contemporary art, it gradually loses its specifically photographic character.

Now the great guideline upon which all this formal dynamic acquires corporeality is around the family and the immigrant condition, since Andreas von Gehr is the son of a german citizen, arrived in Chile in the ‘ 60s; its visual production is then marked by family relations and the ties that bind it to the history of a distant country, naturally corresponds with the use of photographic material, as index of a «has been» provides the artist reference points for a particular genetic map.

One of the first outstanding works of Von Gehr is a series of five portraits of his closest family (parents, siblings, himself). Each of the gigantographies is composed of hundreds of micro photographs of the four remaining members of the family group, as a pictorial plot that from far is articulated as a recognizable whole, and that closely It provides the detail of the individual faces.

It is interesting how two directionally opposite gestures are balanced in a single image: the large background images are photographs taken by the author the year 2001; in these respects the formal parameters of a photo booklet, preserving an objective tone, impartial… It is practically a scientific approach on his family and himself. Then, these photos are decomposed through images from a single family photo of the ‘ 70s, whose nature corresponds to an improvised beach scene, while the author hides in anonymity.

The appropriation of this image by means of the digitalization, and then its decomposition to compose the new macro images of thirty years later, it allows that the old photography «becomes present» through genetic and perspective concepts, introduced both in the composition as in the framework.

In other words, each micro-image behaves as a pixel, rigorous substrate of a single total image, point of the pointillist painting, that in its parallel condition of micro-portrait integrally designates the shared blood between the photographed. 

Pure visual DNA.

The concept of the blood is also origin of another of his works, «RE-BIO-GEHR’, where the author explores the cultural-genetic relationship with his father. Again, a large photographic portrait license type, with red background, works as base motive; but this time, the displacement of the image goes beyond the digital intervention, because photography is decomposed in a hundred of framed portraits each of which contains at the bottom center a single image: a typically German child, who is nothing more than the father caught in his German childhood. Each portrait is therefore an object itself, that in the installation, calculated according to the rules of perspective and optical perception (containing a latent Baroque), surprisingly articulate to generate the paternal image.

In summary, von Gehr`s production line that circulates through the area of the interaction between photography, digital media and installation, consists of own pictures but that they resemble a medial industrialization objective, or appropriate pictures, which have a bucolic, open and even erotic nature as in the diptych shown in the group exhibition » I do not see you , darling .»

In all these works works the concept of symbolic-optical lattice that rearticulate the image loading it of multiple potential readings. In addition, the use of series, sequences and the same montage, guide the attention of the viewer from the photographed entity to the global construction of artistic work, where sometimes converge pictorial gestures, those that intervene to remind us Andreas’s disciplinary origin.

And the artist’s pictorial production exists, and it is constituted by paintings based on past photos of his family.

The proper transfer of those images to the field of stain and glaze is rather expressionist: a true game of pleasures over the recomposition of the original photograph, imaginary reflections that we are offered from a purely gestural scope.

A parallel universe that behaves as rest. As a gathering.

Natalia Arcos Salvo

Art theoretical

University of Chile

Santiago de Chile